In this latest blog post from Maria Sisci, Nordic Project Manager at Nestlé Nespresso SA, she discusses what to do when poor performance is not a justifiable reason for dismissal.

“We’ve all had the misfortune of working with, to put it euphemistically, individuals in need of performance improvement. I’m talking about those situated at the bottom of the quadrant in terms of competency and attitude—the ones who can’t or won’t get their work done, the deadweight dragging the corporate ship down. Usually, the solution to dealing with them in a company is simple: fire them. These individuals not only represent a direct financial cost to the company with no output to speak of, but also cast a shadow of demotivation over high performers. Afterall, why go the extra mile if there are no consequences for slacking off?

But what if you can’t? What if you live in a country with strong labor laws and even stronger labor unions where poor performance is not a justifiable reason for dismissal? Assuming you’re the unlucky manager in question, I present to you three potential elixirs for this corporate migraine.

1.Be the nagging, annoying parent

Effort level: high

Self-esteem: low
Results: high

Picture yourself as the relentless parent chasing after a rebellious teenager who’s late for curfew.  Follow up with them daily to ensure work is completed, and probably add accompanying training mechanisms to address their low competency. It would be effective as they’d eventually want you to stop nagging, like a teenager would eventually come home. But beware, this method consumes a significant amount of your time, time that could be spent on more productive tasks, like walking an extra ten minutes to get to a better sandwich shop at lunch. They’re denying you that better sandwich. And how would you really feel about yourself at the end of the day? Like a baby-sitter. This is surely below your pay grade.

2. Be the wise, understanding parent

Effort level: high
Self-esteem: high
Results: medium/low

Delve into their psyche like a seasoned therapist. Uncover their intrinsic motivations and coax out their hidden potential. This approach is compassionate and far kinder than the nagging solution. You’d probably want to pat yourself on the back afterwards for being such a good human. However, this still takes time, you still won’t get to your sandwich shop. And despite your best efforts, sometimes you can’t meet their demands. Perhaps they feel underpaid or despise the corporate bureaucracy. Perhaps they really are just incompetent. Far beyond your control.

3. Be the negligent, cruel parent

Effort level: low
Self-esteem: low
Results: medium/low

In other words, “quietly fire” them. Simply ignore them, stop assigning them responsibilities, and hope they get the message and vanish by themselves. It’s pretty low effort, but maybe if they didn’t care enough to work past 3pm, they wouldn’t care if you didn’t give them any work to do. It is also the ultimate passive aggressive move, one which even Tinder ghosters might find morally questionable.

All in all, it’s a tricky situation. Undeniably, these labor laws were put in place with good intentions, protecting the little guys from the big bad corporations. If none of the solutions above work for you, you could also opt for secret solution number 4: be the irresponsible parent that leaves. Assuming you can find another satisfying job easily, and that you feel no sense of responsibility over your current company, just abandon ship with the high performers. Sail off to greener pastures where you can have time for gourmet sandwiches and feel good about yourself at the end of the day.”

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